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Win Win

2011 film directed by Thomas McCarthy

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'Win Win' Feels Like a Draw

  • Mar 17, 2011
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Tom McCarthy’s new film Win Win is a comforting tale for these trying economic times. While the film has its heart in the right place, it ultimately lacks the energy it needs to be a “winner.”

Win Win stars Paul Giamatti as Mike Flaherty, a small-town New Jersey attorney struggling to find clients and work in the recession. Desperate for money to support his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) and two children, Mike becomes the legal guardian of an elderly client named Leo (Burt Young) in order to collect a caretaker fee from the government. Leo is suffering from early symptoms of dementia, and Mike deceitfully sticks him in a retirement home against his wishes.

The arrangement becomes complicated when Leo’s long lost grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) suddenly appears on his doorstep, and Mike and Jackie are left to take in an apparently troubled teenager who is running away from his drug addict mother. As luck would have it, Kyle turns out to be a wrestling prodigy, and instantly becomes the star of the lackluster high school wrestling team that Mike coincidentally coaches. As Kyle becomes comfortable with his new life and wins over the Flaherty family and others, his mother Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) returns desiring to take Kyle home to Ohio and care for Leo there. This serves as the central tension in the film, as Mike wants to keep his star wrestler and Kyle refuses to trust his mother.

The cast of Win Win is excellent and most of the performances are strong. Despite Mike’s questionable decision-making, Giamatti has the charm to make any character immensely likable, and Mike is no exception. Another true talent, Amy Ryan is convincing as a moral housewife, although she is under-utilized. Also under-utilized is Jeffrey Tambor who plays Mike’s friend and assistant wrestling coach. There’s a handful of fun Jeffrey Tambor moments, but not nearly as many as one would expect from the Bluth family patriarch in Arrested Development. Bobby Cannavale has a more fun role as Mike’s friend Terry, but there are times when he seems a bit too much like caricature.

The real star performer is Shaffer as Kyle.  In his first ever on screen role, Shaffer exhibits a quiet confidence that makes him seem like a 16-year old modern day version of Gary Cooper – “the strong, silent type.” As Kyle unexpectedly wins over his teammates and the adults around him, the audience incredulously finds itself being won over too, and it’s a major credit to Shaffer’s performance.

This is the third film directed by McCarthy, a character actor whose credits include The Wire and Meet the Parents. McCarthy won praise for his direction ofThe Station Agent and The Visitor, and Win Win earned rave reviews at Sundance. But while the film’s quirkiness may have impressed that crowd, it ultimately lacks enough energy to rise to its potential. At times Win Win is slow, and it can’t quite tug hard enough on your heartstrings. There are several issues that never get resolved, but those that are addressed, are done so in a calming, almost too-soothing way.

Regardless, it’s hard to dislike Win Win. You’ll walk away from the theater feeling relatively good about the film and may even derive some comfort during these tough economic times. But with a first-rate cast, Win Win never realizes its true potential.

Win Win opens in limited release on Friday, March 18.

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March 18, 2011
Great write-up, it sounds like a nice afternoon movie!
 
March 18, 2011
Something about this plot makes me think of Little Miss Sunshine for some reason. It sounds kind of cute even if not great. Thanks so much for sharing!
 
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More Win Win (film) reviews
review by . September 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     "Win Win" is a nice, gentle drama; and I needed that on this particular movie night. It isn't loud, it isn't insulting, and it's actually pretty good at what it does. I suppose I was drawn to it by its cast, but I got out of it much more than just a few performances. I actually invested quite a bit into it. Basically, it takes a perfectly normal story full of perfectly normal people, and engages us through both sympathy and the performances alone. There is …
review by . August 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
If you missed this one in theatres, you probably aren't alone.  I had never heard of it either when we found it on our cable providers on-demand list of new releases, and were sold by the trailer.  This is the kind of quiet movie made for and by adults that gets overlooked in the multi-screen megaplexes--no franchise, no remake, no graphic novel hero, no 3-D action hook means no 15-24 ticket sales means no screens available--a sad commentary on the current state of cinema which we …
review by . March 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         So far as I can tell, seeing Win Win truly would be a win win situation; the producers and studio execs will delight at the increase in box office, and you will be watching one of the year’s best films. This is a warm, funny, intelligent, compelling, superbly cast treasure – one of those rare films in which a brain and a heart are at work. Like last year’s brilliant The Kids Are All Right, it tells a story that isn’t idealized …
review by . March 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
More like win/lose
WIN WIN   Written and Directed by Thomas McCarthy   Starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale and Alex Shaffer       Abby: Where’s Daddy?   Jackie: He’s running.   Abby: From what?       Thomas McCarthy’s latest film, WIN WIN, is a little movie about regular people in a small town. McCarthy is no stranger to championing the stories of the every man (perhaps best exemplified in his …
review by . March 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Win Win' 'Two Jews On Film' Agree - This Is One Winning Movie (Video)
'Win Win' directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent & The Visitor) explores the depths and nuances of human relationships and shows us that in certain circumstances, even the most unlikely of characters can form a bond that will last a lifetime.      Attorney Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is your typical Everyman.  He has a  loving wife Jackie ( brilliant Amy Ryan) and two small kids who adore him.  The only thing Mike loves almost as much …
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Phil Wallace ()
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From wikipedia:

The film was rated 90% "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes in March 2011 and, based on 155 reviews, held a 94% favorable rating in January 2012. Its critical consensus states: "Rich, wonderful characters and strong performances populate Win Win, with writer/director Thomas McCarthy continuing to emerge as a great American humanist."[1]
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, calling the film a "gem, hilarious and heartfelt with a tough core that repels all things sappy", and "just about perfect."Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3 out of 4 stars, writing "You have a funny situation, and there's some truth in it and unexpected characters, well-acted, and you may not have a great film but you enjoy watching it."Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer gave it 3 out of 4 stars, writing "[Giamatti] delivers a marvel of a performance—all the more so because we forget that he is performing." He concluded "Win Win doesn't quite hit the high notes of grace and revelation that The Station Agent and The Visitor achieved, but McCarthy and his able cast pull off a similar mix of humor and pathos, smiles and angst." Daniel Sarath from online blog New In Cinema gave it 4/5, stating "Win Win is visual evidence that a film doesn't have to be pushing boundaries or walking in uncharted territory to stand out from the crowd. As long as you have a talented ...
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